It’s been a while since Agent 47 has been in the spotlight, which was all the more confusing when Blood Money was considered the pinnacle of the series and should have had successful sequels already lined up. Now with Absolution, the Hitman series reaches the current generation, but how does it stack up to previous games? Well, it’s neither the best nor the worst Hitman game you could play right now.


Absolution puts a much more personal focus on the story this time, getting rid of more impersonal globe-trotting tales and having 47 mostly stick to a few locations with one goal in mind: to protect Victoria, a girl his former handler Diana was caring for when he was tasked with assassination her by the new head of The Agency, Benjamin Travis (a man who most resembles and evil Nick Offerman). While the writers try to put the story first this time, it doesn’t end up being anything more than moderately entertaining at best, and boringly cliché at worst. It almost seems like a mistake to put story first when it forces developers to craft levels around it, instead of making the story around great levels (which Blood Money seemed to do to great effect).


The level design is much more simplified from before, with several levels (like the Run For Your Life section seen in earlier previews) having absolutely no sandbox focus to them. Only a few levels throughout the game are truly open, but even here the solutions tend to be simple and the levels are often still sectioned off. Part of the blame comes from removing the ability to upgrade and select your gear before a mission, without any sort of monetary reward for hits throughout the story mode. Instead, players are judged by a score counter on the top, and while it could be seen as a step up from the previous system, it ends up being far more intrusive and docks or rewards points for things that don’t really make sense.


The worst aspect would be how fundamentally broken certain aspects of the gameplay are. In particular, the AI and save systems are both the worst they’ve been in a while. The save system forces you to seek out checkpoints to save at, working similar to the free save system from before but with a catch: Once you save, if you have to restart from that section, the entire level restarts. Killed or knocked out guards respawn, traps laid out are reset, and so on. It’s such a massive and dumb oversight, especially when you can carefully plan out a section and save, only to have to redo it all over again but just from a different location and wearing whatever you were last wearing. The AI is actually smarter than before, but here the problem lies with the forced Instinct system.



If 47 doesn’t have enough instinct to slightly cover his face, enemies will see right through his disguise, which makes it feel like a forced mechanic to justify regular use of instinct (since purists might not want to use it to look through walls or seek targets). In some sections, it becomes impossible to go through without finding an obscure way to mess with the guard patterns or just shoot your way through if you don’t have full instinct. While the instinct does allow players to fumble their way through a situation a little better instead of dealing with constant trial and error, it doesn't remove that aspect completely and it screams of an attempt to appeal to more people, which in itself isn’t a bad thing but it feels ripped straight from Rocksteady’s stellar Batman games and the Detective Vision you could use.


Of course, the actual mechanics and the rewarding feeling of a hit gone right are still there. While intrusive, the new score system still rewards clever ideas and the more impressive levels give you multiple options for taking out targets. Accidental kills are still present, but if you’re frustrated than you can feel free to use the environment or you weapons however you want, even in the more linear levels (which usually offer two or three ways to continue on towards your objective). Of course the best way to experience a more pure Hitman experience if the single player isn’t doing it for you would have to be in the Contracts mode, which is Absolution’s answer to a multiplayer mode.


Instead of facing off with other players, or creating levels through a map editor, Contracts mode allows you to create hits using levels from the single player with various modifiers (such as outfits, weapons and starting/exit points), along with specific goals players must follow. Contracts comes with its own economy to reward players who can complete hard contracts, and a clever balancing system forces creators to finish their own contract at least once before they can put it on the market (ensuring nobody makes truly impossible contracts). The contracts mode is only a shade of its full potential had Square Enix instead opted for a real map editor or a system similar to Halo’s Forge, but Hitman fans yearning for more can find a lot to do.


Hitman: Absolution fails to hit the high marks of Blood Money, but as the first Hitman game in a long time it ends up being refreshingly fun series return if you can look past the problems on the surface. Not to spoil anything, but the game leaves us with a potential new story thread for a future Hitman game, and now that 47’s task here is done, let’s hope he can get back to basics for the series going forward.